Among the judo fraternity in Japan, the roughest are the medical students. I practised once with such a man though at first I didn’t know where he came from.

Now, normally in the dojo, people just come up and say ‘0-negai\ (‘Will you?’). But this chap came up and made a deep formal bow.

‘O-negai-itashimasu*. (‘May I have the honour of practising with you?’).

‘Oh, all right,’ I replied.

When we started he was like a typhoon – all elbows and knees and hacks. Then he first threw me, and as I was getting off the floor, he drew himself up and said ‘Please excuse me.’ I thought, ‘Whew, what is this?’

Then, when I threw him, the same thing happened. He got up off the floor, stood straight and said, ‘Thank you very much.’ And then it was all elbows, knees and hacks again.

I realised later that the teacher in the medical judo dojo knew that this formal manner was just what they needed. He insisted on very strict politeness so that it would calm them down, restrain them a little bit, just for a moment, in the middle of all the excitement. It would restrain them and hold them to something formal and peaceful, honouring and respecting the opponent. He knew how easily they could lose their tempers, so this restraint of manners allowed them to practise in other dojos without things getting out of hand.

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